Lincoln Square Park featured in Oakland Chinatown Panel
On October 24, 2020, the Oakland Asian Cultural Center and East Wind Books Multicultural Services co-presented an online panel on Oakland Chinatown, currently at a critical turning point. Friends of Lincoln Square Park co-founder, Tiffany Eng, spoke about her connection to Chinatown and talked about our vision for a new, larger building. Read her comments in full.
The event was named: Chinatown Today, Chinatown Tomorrow. Panelists shared their thoughts on the issues affecting our historic neighborhood and how we can address them. Click on their names to skip to their presentation.
Moderator (4:29) William Gee Wong presents a historical perspective and then is joined by (15:27) Ted Dang (Commercial broker/developer, also EBALDC co-founder), (31:26) Alvina Wong (APEN Campaign & Organizing Director), (46:47) Tiffany Eng (Friends of Lincoln Park co-founder), and (57:02) Joyce Pisnanont (CAPACD Director of Economic Empowerment). Panelists discuss complex, interwoven factors such as immigration and gentrification trends affecting Oakland Chinatown. Learn from their expertise and lived experiences as well as discover local resources and ways to support Oakland Chinatown today and tomorrow.
This event was part of OACC's “Community Voices to Empower Change” series. This project was made possible with support from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Thank you to Akemi, OACC and your supporters for hosting this event and inviting me to share exciting plans for an improved Recreation Center at Lincoln Square Park in Oakland Chinatown.
But first some backstory - six generations of my family have lived in and around Oakland Chinatown. While none of us live in Chinatown anymore, we, like so many of you, frequently return to connect, shop, eat and play. Even now, we put on our masks and visit regularly to support small businesses, restaurants, and bubble tea shops.
Here’s a photo of four generations of my family at home, only a few blocks from the park. That’s my dad with his Auntie Helen on either side of the dog, surrounded by his parents and siblings, grandparents and great grandmother.
And while Oakland Chinatown has changed since the 1940’s when this was taken, some themes have endured: it’s still a multi-generational gathering place, always changing but resilient, community-driven and always forward-looking.
Today, Chinatown is still very much a vibrant multi-generational and family-friendly neighborhood. Fast forward, here’s four generations again, nearly eight decades later - my dad and my Great Auntie Helen in the center again, surrounded by my family and me at Lincoln Park on the famous junk boat.
That’s part of the Wa Sung Community Service play area, named as such because it’s always been a community effort to build and rebuild over the years.
The City park is staffed by Oakland Parks and Recreation and community volunteers and has a little bit of everything, including the aging recreation center (in the top middle) built in the early 1970’s.
Like Chinatown, the park has seen generations of families come and go. Whether it’s Auntie Helen on the Dragonettes, a softball team in the 1930’s, local teens, or even Kevin Durant - the park has always been a place for active communal FUN.
The original “club house”, on 11th Street, is still actively used for programming by Family Bridges, a long-time neighborhood service organization. It was built in 1935 and funded in part by the City as a WPA project but also by local Chinese donors - doctors and others in the community with many who helped advocate and fund the building.
Three years ago, my husband and I, along with a multi-generational group of other community volunteers and organizations, formed Friends of Lincoln Square Park to help steward the park, and specifically, to help build a much needed bigger and improved recreation center.
It’s been in part an advocacy campaign to get the City to prioritize a bigger recreation center, in part a community outreach effort and in part a capital campaign to help raise much needed gap funding to make the project a reality just like what was done with the original clubhouse.
Building a new recreation center is one of the top priorities for the Chinatown neighborhood because the park is an anchor for all of us. It’s the only recreational place in Chinatown that attracts children, adults, and seniors and is open to all regardless of income. People come to hang out with friends, and then they stay to shop and eat and visit the doctor. It’s the heart of our community.
These days due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the park is closed to the public and it’s devastating to see it so empty. But even now, the center is hosting a few dozen students who need help with distance learning while Lincoln Elementary and other schools are closed. The park is still working in service to the community, just like during the 1918 pandemic. But we know while this project may not seem relevant right now, it is an ideal time to plan for our future.
Here’s a short pre-pandemic video that should give you a sense of the park in better times and our vision for the future.
If you have, or are able to get involved and support our dream of a new rec center, or if you’re looking for a meaningful way to leave your legacy - learn more at our website or contact me. Just as in the past, this is a community effort and we are looking to engage with the next generation of supporters ready to help advance the park’s legacy as a gathering place for decades to come.
Stay in the know.
We'll post our updates here as our progress continues.